Headphones and earplugs

I was considering a musical alternative to the crappy boombox I have at work. I thought a portable MP3 player certainly would be nice. The problem is I don’t know of any headphones that could be worn over earplugs (I’m not wearing those big honking headphones like from the 70’s) or any that would block out a significant amount of external sound. Any ideas?

In Ear Monitors, such as the Shure E series. Part of the “fit kit” are sized silicone tips that are designed to mould to the ear and form a seal in the ear canal to block out a fair bit of external noise and deliver the audio from the music device directly into the ear.

Alternatively (and probably of lesser effectiveness), noice cancelling headphones are an option, but they tend to introduce artifacts into the music as they attempt to “subtract” the outside noise from the incoming audio signal, and I doubt they work well in a noisy environment.

Are there any specs listing how much noise they attenuate?

Not that I’m aware of. In checking out Shure, Etymotics and Sennheiser IEMs, none of them listed at dB rating for how much sound they blocked out – they were mainly about the isolation of the incoming signal rather than how much external noise was reduced. Based on my own personal estimations and observations though, it’s probably safe to say that the reduction is significant – on the order of 20dB or more. Silicone is soft and rubbery, which is good for absorbing sound vibrations. Couple that with the fact that they mould to the ears and make a seal and it’s not hard to conclude that the difference between good IEMs with form-fit tips and standard over-ear phones or ordinary buds is striking.

Apparently they block 30 to 37 decibels . That link is for the E500, but I imagine they all eliminate about the same amount of noise. That’s not bad. They may be adequate for my application. Even the E2c is expensive, but it’s worth it if I can hear my music at work.

Reports I’ve read of the E2c peg it as a decent lower end set but lacking in bass. The E3c (and E3g) and above evidently provide richer bass, and you can usually find them for about $100 if you look around. The E2c I’ve seen for $40-60. You can easily find 'em on eBay for that anyway, but either way, 30-37dB is pretty good; I didn’t know it was that high. Certainly worth a try. I’m looking at the E3c myself.